October 10, 2016 By: Winstanley.R.Bankole. Johnson
In corporate environments, even rookies are trained early to identify and proactively manage risks in their areas of responsibility – actual or perceived – and upon their successful management of which their advancement through the cadres can be guaranteed.
The civil service is a totally different environment. In their case they are taught to grovel. Efficiency and progression is determined not by output, but by those very basis on which all employment is predicated in the first place – honesty, faithfulness, loyalty and punctuality, and over and above all, “connectocracy”. Oh yes; a civil servant can get promoted for just being “loyal” to his boss. At their highest levels, their efficiency is determined not on deliverables, but by the number of workshops organised, especially if the “Key Note” speaker is H.E. the President. And I make those statement without equivocation, because if indeed the Board and management of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) had inculcated half as much of the level of discipline imbibed in seriously running corporate organisations, it shouldn’t have taken so long for them to have realised that possession, as quite distinct from ownership, and is only nine-tenths of law.
Thankfully, the furore over the purported seizures by, or allocation of parcels of the Leicester Peak lands to, the Africa Young Voices (AYV) Enterprises would appear to have died down as naturally as the matter had at first simmered and eventually blown out of proportion by the SLBC. But why it was raised up in the first instance is the bane of many an enlightened observer, considering the fact that those same parcels of lands contested for by the SLBC were neither bequeathed to them as a corporate body in general, nor to Dr. Gbanagbome Hallowell as the CEO of the broadcasting outfit in particular. Yet they chose to run days of orchestrated vilification campaigns against the AYV Enterprises in very futile attempts to fight for the rightful owners and their employers: the government.
But let’s even assume the SLBC’s title over those lands were perfect, did they wish us to believe that the most powerful organ in this country – the government – with all the resources at its disposal, could not fight for itself but would rather require the resources of those in its employ to defend it? Sounds to me like a fervent Christian crusader attempting to fight for Jesus Christ. What futility!!!
The very action of the SLBC management brings a few key questions to the fore:
The relevance of that final question stems from the fact that (and as the management of the SLBC would have us believe), the relationship between them and the AYV Enterprises as putative rents-paying tenants had all along been cordial. And not even in one’s wildest imaginations would anyone have predicted that a time would come (in fact sooner) when both parties would be at loggerheads, considering the fact that the SLBC had on many previous occasions acted as modern day “Town Criers” for the AYV Enterprises – harbingers of AWOL – over their airwaves. So my questions again: Why at this particular time? Or is it because as we would say in Yoruba Krio “Ikunika – Iku Bolajeh!!” (“Death is wicked – Death can spoil everything!!”). But did it? I don’t think so because the AYV Enterprises would appear to have emerged winners.
The glaring anomaly here is that the AYV had been paying; the SLBC had been collecting and issuing receipts for an undocumented and unregistered lease rents for properties over which they (the SLBC) had no legal title. The AYV Enterprises realised a defect, and quickly outsmarted the SLBC by taking legitimate ownership of the sites direct from the body charged with that responsibility (the Ministry of Lands). So could they (the SLBC) by implication be guilty of various offences under the law and also could the AYV Enterprises pursue recoveries of all such rents paid in the past – again under the law?
Would the Lands Ministry have proceeded to lease/let parcels of those same Leicester Peak sites to the AYV Enterprises if they knew that the SLBC had legitimate claims over them? And why is it that throughout those one-sided airwaves brouhaha by the SLBC neither the Ministry of Lands, nor their supervising Ministry (Information), or the offices of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice ever interested themselves in it?
The SLBC’s only basis of claim to those contested lands lie in an oral statement attributed to the late President Siaka Probyn Stevens, ceding the Leicester Peak sites to its precursor, the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS), long before the birth of Dr. Gbanagbome Hallowell. But the fact that their structures had been domiciled in that particular location for umpteen years or the fact that the late President had verbally sworn that those sites belonged to them is irrelevant. Insofar as they were not delineated, conveyed and registered in the names of the SLBS, its successors and assigns cannot claim ownership to them. That’s the snag. And it is disheartening that even with such glaring discrepancies, the Board and Management did not advise themselves otherwise, but proceeded to dissipate so much airtime on a matter of irrelevance that displaced other very important programmes on a particular day, such as the more educative and entertaining “BBC Focus On Africa”.
I think I should close by playing the devil’s advocate. If after so many decades of it being under their control, the Ministry of Lands could so easily dispossess the SLBS/SLBC of ownership and allocate portions of it to others, then the question of who actually owns those Leicester Peak arises. And the only way to answer that is to advise all purported owners of plots on the site (particularly Churches) to immediately take steps to regularise their title documents so that they too do not fall under the hammer of the Ministry of Lands.